Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Chop Wood, Carry Water

"Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."
– a Zen Buddhist adage
Several weeks ago, I found a studio space and a very good assistant. I secured a loan from a friend to buy the materials needed. And I drew up a schedule focussed on reducing the backlog of commissions that had accumulated even before my my breakdown at the beginning of the year. It was the start of the most productive period of my life to date.
Over a dozen enamel paintings, ranging in size from 60cm x 40cm to nearly 300cm x 200cm, have now been completed and delivered to collectors, along with a score of acrylics and watercolours on paper. I have devised and produced new works in various media. I have even repaired, refreshed or cleaned half a dozen works of mine on behalf of collectors so that they might be sold in the secondary market.
In between, new opportunites have presented themselves. I have had discussions with three publishers, two in Australia and one in North America, on four different book projects. And, of course, there's Amanda Palmer and the unusual notion of a set of small artworks to illustrate her upcoming album of songs inspired by Australia and New Zealand.
With two weeks left before Christmas and an extended national holiday that combines the usual pseudo-religious/ consumer-driven celebrations with a four-week southern summer hiatus for many businesses – for example, commercial art galleries are shuttered from Christmas Eve until the end of January – I am working 18 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure another half a dozen enamel paintings can be collected by art transporters in time for their last interstate deliveries of this year.
Predictably, it has rained nearly every day, increasing the sub-tropical humidity, both outside and in, and doubling drying times between enamel coats. The air is so thick, you can see the enamel's carcinogenic tint within every particle of moisture. By nightfall, I am wracked with nausea and my eyes are demon-yellow. I shower and scrub my irritated, itchy skin then go to bed early to recover a little so I can work even harder the next day.
I think of it as penance for the time (and works) lost over the past couple of years. But the backlog is shrinking slowly and as it does, my capacity to develop new ideas and new work expands. That alone is worth the price my body is paying.
Above: Big Pin-Up: Miss May, 2010, high gloss enamel on canvas, 210cm x 140cm.

3 comments:

seeinginthedark said...

Extremely inspiring-It's impressive to see how much you're doing! The Amanda Palmer project is one of the projects you've described I look forward to most-I'm curious to read more about the books...
I think its amazing that you have documented so much of your journey as an artist, including the breakdown and the fact that you have come back stronger than ever from it.

(mika jones from facebook)

dgcasey said...

Congratulations on cutting into the backlog, but Hazel, don't forget to take a day off every now and then just to get away from the studio. You keep going at this pace you've set for yourself and you'll be back in the hospital before you know it. Commissions are great, but do them at your pace, not your client's.

dgcasey said...

Oh, and I love that piece at the top of this post. Sexy as hell.